The Ayes Have It

What are you? Where are you from? // I say, California, / but that’s not what they are looking for-

Filmmaker Savanah Leaf

The Ayes Have It

When I think of Trayvon Martin, I think of Emmett Till,
              when I think of Emmett Till, I think of young black men in the South,
then I think of young, white men in the South.
              I think of my husband, who is white, born and raised in Franklin, TN.
I think of how when he tries to hold my hand,
              sometimes I pull away and not because I don’t love him,
but because I’m conscious, I think of other people,
              other people who are born in the South,
that remember the old South and in fact long for it.
              I think about the nooses that hung on our back porch when I was little:
one for me and one for my mom,
              I think about how people say,
 
              It’s not about race, don’t make it about race,
              I wish Black people would stop talking about race!
 
When all I‘ve ever known is being defined by my race.
 
              What are you? Where are you from?
 
I say, California,
              but that’s not what they are looking for-
they are asking about my parents, what they want to know
              is that my mother is black and my dad is white. I’m mixed.
So when I think about a post-racial America, I don’t-
              because the trees in the South have strange fruit histories,
the roots are deep red, tangled and gnarled, so again-
              when I think of Trayvon, I think of hoodies, then I think
of stereotypes, I think of skittles and high fructose corn syrup,
              tasting the rainbow, and then I think of gay marriage,
then just marriage in general and I’m back to my husband
              and he’s trying to hold my hand again, but the truth is- I’m scared,
because I have to love him differently in the South,
              just like young black men have to think differently in the South,
they can’t just wink at any woman, Mr. Till,
              just walk through any neighborhood, Mr. Martin.
Just wear any hoodie, buy any iced tea.
 
Someone is watching, always watching us, so when I think about
              justice, I think about eyeballs, the first impression,
the action that follows, George Zimmerman stepping out of his car.
              I think,
what would have happened if he had just given him a ride home?
 

 

“The Ayes Have It,” a poem by Tiana Clark. ©2012 Tiana Clark. Used by permission. This poem first appeared in Raven Chronicles. Collected in the forthcoming I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburg Press, Fall 2018).

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